Birth Injury and Cerebral Palsy - Medical Malpractice

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Cerebral palsy is a serious neurological condition  that can be caused by birth injuries during labor and delivery. It occurs in two to four of 1,000 births in the United States, according to the Mayo Clinic. Often, cerebral palsy is due to a trauma, decreased blood flow to the brain or a lack of oxygen to the brain at birth.  According to physicians and attorneys, "The most common types are spastic cerebral palsy, athetoid cerebral palsy and ataxic cerebral palsy. Spastic cerebral palsy is characterized by tightness and stiffness in muscle groups making it difficult to more from one position to another. Athetoid cerebral palsy generally features low muscle tone, slurred speech and involuntary movement. In ataxic cerebral palsy, symptoms include difficulty with coordinated muscle movements, depth perception problems and tremors."




Negligence Medical Care

Cerebral palsy may be the result of negligent medical care. The improper use of forceps and vacuum extractors can cause cerebral palsy. There may be compression of the brain, stretching of blood vessels, brain bleeds and even skull fractures. The physician’s technique is critical. There should be no excessive pulling for more than 10 minutes, and if the vacuum extractor comes off three times during usage, a C-section should be performed.

Prolonged labor, lack of oxygen and blood to the brain, abnormal changes in blood pressure and blood disorders can all cause brain bleeds. In these situations, the doctor must closely monitor the baby for fetal distress to minimize the risk of a brain bleed resulting in cerebral palsy. If fetal distress occurs and regular delivery are not successful, the mother must be given the option of a C-section. Informed consent is essential.

Preeclampsia is a condition that occurs during pregnancy and is characterized by protein in the urine and high blood pressure. Undiagnosed and untreated preeclampsia can lead to a permanent neurological injury, such as cerebral palsy. There may be a reduction in oxygen and nutrients or placental abruption. Physicians treating the mother with preeclampsia must carefully monitor the mother, implement a regimen of fetal surveillance and run weekly tests and ultrasound exams to determine if the fetus is growing normally. Patients should also be referred to maternal-fetal specialists.

A prolapsed umbilical cord presents an obstetrical emergency. Prompt assessment of the condition and medical interventions are critical. The baby is at risk for suffering permanent brain injury or cerebral palsy when an umbilical cord prolapses.

Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) birth injuries occur when the baby’s body or head is too large to go through the mother’s pelvis. Common mistakes make by doctors when CPD presents are administration Pitocin, which can lead to hypoxia, and allowing prolonged labor. Both of these can lead to cerebral palsy.

In order to prevent the birth trauma of cerebral palsy, it is vital for doctors to monitor both mother and baby very closely during the entire pregnancy and throughout the entire delivery. Failure to do so is negligence. The failure to follow the standard of care and to act promptly and skillfully also constitutes medical malpractice.

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